Topic description: One of the greatest challenges facing marine ecologists deals with identification of the mechanisms underlying successful restoration of marine ecosystems, many of which have been severely degraded over the past century. In particular, restoration of ecosystem engineers such as oysters, which create reefs that provide a diverse suite of ecosystem services, is likely to catalyze improvements in ecosystem function. Oyster landings and abundance of the native Crassostrea virginica peaked in the 1880s and are currently at less than 1% of historical abundance, despite considerable and expensive attempts to restore the populations. Our recent theoretical and field investigations with native oyster populations in the Great Wicomico River provided insights into the key features necessary for long-term sustainability of restored native oyster reefs. Mathematical modeling of oyster and other marine species population will provide key theoretical support for the future restoration effect.
Research opportunities: With NSF-CSUMS support, mathemematical modeling of oyster-reef-sediment interaction, and blue crab intraguild cannibalistic predator-prey interation have been conducted in summers of 2009 and 2010. In summer of 2011, we look for 1-2 motivated math major undergraduate students, to participate in the modeling and computational effort for oyster population in a habitat network. As a member of interdisciplinary research team consiting of faculty from W&M Marine Sciences, Applied Science and Mathematics, graduate and undergraduate students, the student will have the opportunity to have hand-on experience in mathematical modeling of a real world ecological and economical problem.
Suggested prerequisites: Math 302 (Differential Equations), Math 345 (Mathematical Biology) or APSC 455 (Population Dynamics)